Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, has introduced a bill for the appropriation of funds to create a new master's degree in nursing education program at Eastern New Mexico University.
SB 216 will allocate $180,000 per year for three years to ENMU's new program, after which time the program would become self-sufficient.
"We're not asking for this funding forever," ENMU President Steve Gamble said, "but we need to hire a Ph.D. nurse in order to get the program running, and then student semester credit fees would fund it from then on."
According to the Legislative Education Study Committee's Bill Analysis of SB 216, there is a shortage of nurses in New Mexico but according to Becky Rowley, president of Clovis Community College, there is also a shortage of nurses who teach.
"They just have to have a master's degree and there just aren't that many nurses educated at that level," Rowley said. "Sometimes we hire people with a bachelor's degree in nursing and they have to get a master's degree within a certain amount of time and this bill will just make it that much more easier to do that."
Typically, nurses only have to have an associate's or bachelor's degree to start practicing in their field ,while most college professors have Ph.D. or a master's degree with substantive experience in their field. Eastern's new master's of nursing education program is designed to help bridge this gap by supplying 20 master's degree nurses each year.
The incentive to obtain higher levels of education is not always matched by the monetary incentives for nurses to work in the field.
"The biggest reason (for the shortage of nursing teachers) is that they can make more money in the field than they can in teaching," Rowley said. "A lot of times, our graduates make as much money as our faculty do."
According to Hoyt Skabelund, administrator at Plains Regional Medical Center, there is no shortage of nurses on the hospital's staff although the aging of the baby boom generation could be a factor for the projected shortage of nurses. At any rate, Skabelund thinks that the bill is good for the area.
"I know that there are going to be a substantial number of nurses who are going to be thrilled about having the option to receive their master's degree from ENMU."